Anything here sound familiar?
terror, fright, fearfulness, horror, alarm, panic, agitation, trepidation, dread, consternation, dismay, distress
anxiety, worry, angst, unease, uneasiness, apprehension, apprehensiveness, nervousness, nerves, perturbation, foreboding
These are synonyms for fear. Let’s take a test. Put an X at the frequency at which you would describe your mental state by one or more of the words from the list.
Constantly —————– occasionally —————- never
Where did you put your X? Full disclosure. Here’s mine.
Constantly ——-X——– occasionally —————- never
Fear has been a companion of mine for so long that I pack for it when I travel, I bring an extra lunch when I go to work, I save a seat at church (what? I go to church and I’m not perfectly adjusted and worry free?). This is my fault, though. And it’s all in my mind.
Here’s an excerpt from Robinson Crusoe (chapter 12) that chastised me for this ongoing struggle. The book was published in 1719, so I’m not exactly unique in this weakness. Here’s the situation: Crusoe has been in exile for years on a deserted island. He first feared for his life; God provided food and shelter. He then cursed his loneliness; God provided companionship. Then…
Crusoe sees a footprint in the sand. It is not his own.
His terror at the potential for cannibals on his island nearly drives him mad. After some reflection, he reaches this assessment of his fearful reaction.
Thus my fear banished all my religious hope. All that former confidence in God, which was founded upon such wonderful experience as I had had of His goodness, now vanished; as if He that had fed me by miracle hitherto, could not preserve by His power the provisions that He had made for me by His goodness.
In a nutshell, he was consumed by what-could-be, instead of trusting in what-he-had-seen. I’m certainly not here to condemn. I’m Crusoe. I’m trying to figure this out.
The truth is that I already have the book, chapter, and verse with God’s answer. I simply have a hard time trusting it. Here’s the solution to fear.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
Let’s be careful with the term “love” here. This is not movie love. This is God love and, because God is love, it is God. This is the Message translation of the same passage.
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
As God moves in, fear moves out. God does the work; I am incapable of improving myself. It is my job/your job to invite him in, though. If you are exhausted with anxiety, open the door to your mind and heart and invite God in — give him the run of the house. There will be some cleaning and you may need to throw out your favorite couch, but a new life awaits. Take my arm — let’s begin together.